By Edmund Connolly, on 15 January 2013
A new year has begun and our Fellows are now developing their projects back in their respective institutions. The Cultural Heritage Fellowship, which was established in 2012, aimed at promoting and analysing means of community engagement in cultural institutions in the MENA region. With Fellows from such a range of countries and institutions the projects are developing in unique and original ways. Following from our post last year, I will briefly profile our Jordanian Fellows, Nada Sheikh-Yasin and Mohammad Shaqdih.
Mohammad Shaqdih started as the Education Officer at Darat al Funun, a pioneering institution for Jordanian and Arab world arts and artists, and now is the Assistant Director for the Outreach Program. Founded in 1993, Darat al Funun has a holistic melange of facilities, including library, gardens and performance spaces, as well as the exhibition galleries and workshops. The current exhibition, “The power of the word”, uses pieces from the private collections from more than 20 artists from a mix of Arab Countries (such as Muna Hattoum, Rashid Quraishi, Lila Shawwa, Adel Abdin etc.). By choosing artworks that include words and writings, this lively collection seeks to: “provide the public with a bird’s eye view of works of art created by Arab artists and gives the opportunity to witness, as closely as possible, the development of the Arab Art Movement”. With a background in graphic design and a degree in Applied Arts, Mohammad proved a very insightful Fellow, with experience of working on both side of the art industry, as artist and, now, Director.
Mohammad’s involvement in the Fellowship had a slightly different approach to several of his peers as there already existed an ingrained notion of engaging the community via art. Mohammad is very keen to support the students from both schools and universities and facilitate the development of their new works. Ultimately, Mohammad hopes to establish educational programs for both public and private schools, working with the local British Council Education Office. Since returning to Jordan Mohammad has already organised linoleum printmaking workshop for over 50 art teachers (and in a later step coming, involving their students) in collaboration with the Plastic Arts Association.
Prior to the Fellowship Nada worked at the Jordan Museum in Amman as an Assistant Curator helping with the quotidian management of the collection. In Nada’s opinion the museum was not seen favourably by the local community, partly due to the repeated delays in the opening of the museum and because of the lack of engagement with the locals, in particular the ethnic minority groups of Jordan. Nada hoped to apply her learning and experiences of the Cultural Heritage Fellowship to the museum in order to incorporate the growing immigrant populace of Jordan.
Following her week in London and then Bristol, Nada has returned to the Middle East, now working for Art Dubai as a Museum coordinator. Despite moving countries and changing jobs, Nada has managed to narrow down her community engagement project to producing a teaching kit, aimed at school children on the theme of coffee and how it is drunk across the Arab world. This will involve loan boxes, handling sessions and seminar type activities where children of different backgrounds are encouraged to share their coffee-related stories and learn more of Middle Eastern history, geography and politic. These sessions promise to be entertaining and ideal for a class of young pupils, including story telling and dressing up for a more vivacious experience.
We wish all our Fellows good luck with all their projects and aspirations, and look forward to seeing them back at UCL in September.